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‘Copyright Act doesn’t address Internet piracy’


Director- General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission(NCC), Mr Afam Ezekude

Director- General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission(NCC), Mr Afam Ezekude

Decree No. 61 of 1970 was the first indigenous legal instrument regulating issues relating to copyright in Nigeria. The decree was promulgated just after the Nigerian Civil War ended, but salient provisions in the law did not anticipate the rapid socio-economic development as well as influx of products of advanced technology into the country. The consequence of the inadequacy of Decree 61 in protecting creativity and scholarship has been high scale piracy that robs creators, organisations and individuals, who produce or disseminate creative works as well as the society potential income.

As a result of increased pressure from artistes, authors and creators, who are originally the copyright owners, the then Federal Military Government promulgated into law Copyright Decree No. 47 of 1988, which now exists as Copyright Act Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The Act, which has been aptly described as one of the best of its kind, not only created favourable conditions for the actualisation of authors’ potentials through comprehensive protection of creative works, but also incorporated establishment for the first time, of a machinery for the administration of copyright and neighbouring rights matters in Nigeria, that is, Nigerian Copyright Commission.

In an interview recently during CORA/Arterial Network review programme at British Council in Lagos, Director- General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. Afam Ezekude, stressed the need to strengthen the current law and the commission’s sensitization campaign to protect intellectual properties and the new bill proposed to make the law stronger and more effective.

On why the law is not as effective as it should be, Ezekude said, “I wouldn’t quite say the current copyrights act is not effective. The whole copyright system requires reform and that the current act has to be reviewed and brought in line with the international obligations. The penal provision in the current act is insufficient; it doesn’t serve as a good deterrent for copyrights offenders. That was one of the reasons we initiated the process of reforming the whole system, which will obviously mean amending all, completely doing away with the current act.

“Another major reason we are doing this is because the current Copyright Act does not address issues of internet piracy, which are now prevalence. We live in a digital era, where a lot of the copyright infringement is taking place but we need a law that will enable or empower the commission to move against service providers, who are putting up illegal or pirated contents. Currently, the law is inadequate in that sense. So, it needs amendment and that is why we are doing a holistic review of the entire copyright system. And when this new law comes out, it will be of more benefit to right holders and it will generate a lot of investment in the creative sector, which will obliviously boost the economy, create jobs and promote creativity. It will also be a win-win situation for everyone when the bill is passed”.

Ezekude also spoke on measure the commission is taking to ensure the law is fully complied with when eventually passed into law. According to him, “Since I took over the leadership of the commission, we have upscaled enforcement action and prosecutory action as well. So, we’ve conducted 270 anti-piracy operations, with 7,942,683 items seized, 608 arrests. Since 2011 we have taken a lot of them to court and, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, we’ve secured 54 convictions and 25 containers seized from pirates so far, which is unprecedented. Some of the convictions are not just fines but some have led to prison sentences. It has never happened in the history of the copyrights commission.

“We carried out a massive raid on September 8 in Onitsha; that was a place we’ve never ventured into more than 20 years of the commission’s existence and we arrested a lot of copyright offender. We have already embarked on sensitisation campaign in secondary schools for students to know the danger of internet piracy”.

The commission’s boss emphasised that piracy is a big crime easily linked it to terrorism, noting, “piracy is a big crime and proceeds from it can also be used to finance terrorism. So, when we moved our enforcement action to the seaports few years ago, we were hoping to apprehend some of those people that brought in the containers. But as soon as they knew that the commission is on to them, they abandoned their containers and never come back to clear them. Those who still come back to claim ownership of seized containers are arrested and prosecuted and that was what led to the seizure of 25 shipping containers from China worth over N10 billion of literary, music CDs, films work and contrivances. The era in which pirates enrich themselves with what someone toiled for is over.

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